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First things first: find out how much you can spend before you go shopping. Make the phone call and talk to a lender before you look at real estate. If you are thinking of buying a new outfit, you need to know how much credit and cash you have before shopping. The same is true for a home. Use a lender that knows what they are doing and most importantly, if you cannot qualify today, be sure they can tell you why you do not qualify and what you need to do to repair your credit. It costs nothing to get qualified and sometimes only a minimal down payment is required. A 10-minute phone call goes a long way.